The Show Must Go On

Despite a knee injury, Dannebohm prepares for annual invitation-only Christmas reception.

Among the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be falling. On the evening of November 12th, J. Basil Dannebohm, who suffers from young-onset Parkinson’s disease, did just that. He was found on the floor of his garage, covered in items that were on a shelf he attempted to grab to break his fall, he took the shelf down with him.

Declining a visit to the emergency room, Dannebohm was instead taken by one of his handlers to an orthopedic specialist on the morning of November 13th. A series of x-rays and an MRI revealed that Basil had a partially torn patellar tendon.

Despite his injury, Dannebohm will once again host his annual Christmas reception and Blessing of the Manger in early December at the Dannebohm residence. The 2017 theme for the invitation-only Christmas celebration is, “Who Says There Ain’t No Santa Claus,” taken from a song title of the same name featured in the Broadway Musical, “Flahooley,” the lyrics of which were written by “Yip” Harburg.

Edgar Yipsel “Yip” Harburg was a popular song lyricist who worked with many well-known composers. He wrote the lyrics to the standards “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (with Jay Gorney), “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including “Over the Rainbow.” He was known for the social commentary of his lyrics, as well as his liberal sensibilities. He championed racial and gender equality and union politics.

Among the honored guests at this year’s reception are two of Yip Harburg’s great-grandchildren: Aaron Harburg and his brother, David Harburg.

Aaron Harburg is currently producing a documentary entitled, “Song of the Century,” which focuses on Yip’s work on, “Over the Rainbow.” Aaron recently announced the appointment Representative-Emeritus Dannebohm as executive producer of the documentary.

“I am extremely honored to participate in the holiday festivities hosted at the Dannebohm residence,” said Aaron Harburg. “An opportunity like this to spread Christmas cheer and at the same time honor my great-grandfather E.Y. Harburg’s legacy is rare. I’m really excited to participate and share what I have learned representing the Harburg estate throughout years.”

David Harburg is an Ann Arbor, Michigan based recording artist who has been working on revitalizing the songs by his great grandfather. David is hoping to bring some of “Yip” Harburg’s work into the 21st century, as well as share some works of his own.

“I’m honored to be invited to such a special occasion, for my great grandfather to be honored by showcasing his work and his heart for the underprivileged, and for the blessing of my friends at Children Waiting Everywhere, who will be grateful for any and all contributions to some of the most needy in our world, the children of Uganda, specifically the refugee children in northern Uganda,” said David Harburg. “I’m grateful to Basil for how much of a gift he is to my family, my friends and myself.”

Each year, a charity is chosen and those on the guest list are asked to bring a monetary donation in the form of a check. This year’s charity, at the request of the Aaron and David Harburg, is Children Waiting Everywhere, a 100% volunteer, 501(c)(3) foundation dedicated to serving our brothers and sisters around the globe by sharing blessings and empowering them through education and self-employment. The organization serves one community, one family, and one child at a time, contributing to projects in microeconomics, education, and health. They are building up the lives of children waiting everywhere.

Three toasts are offered at the reception: one represents the past, one the present, and one the future. A nod to the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future who visited Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol.

Larry Hatteberg will offer a toast to the past, which reminds guests that while we cannot turn back the hands of time and correct our mistakes, we can honor the memories – people, places, and things that bring us holiday joy.

A Kansas legend, Hatteberg began his television career with KAKE-TV on May 23, 1963. Larry has received more than 130 local, state and national awards for news photography and reporting. His “Hatteberg’s People” video series has profiled over a thousand Kansans since its inception in 1974. He grew up in Winfield, Kansas, and graduated from Winfield High School. He attended Kansas State Teachers College and Wichita State University before starting at KAKE TV, where he worked for 51 years before his last newscast on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Today, Hatteberg hosts his classic segment, “Hatteberg’s People” in a new half-hour show on KPTS. Each week Hatteberg presents his classic stories about interesting and extraordinary Kansans and then updates us on where those people are now.

“It’s an honor to be a guest and Toastmaster at Basil’s Christmas Reception, said Hatteberg. “Christmas for all of us is a mix of feelings and expectations.  To be able to stop for a moment, and reflect on life’s meaning is a gift.  That’s why I’m happy to participate and celebrate with Basil.”

Ryan Jay will offer a toast to the present, which reminds guests to celebrate the here and now. We cannot change the past, we cannot predict the future. However, at this moment, in this time and place, we are creating special holiday memories.

Jay is one of America’s most popular nationally syndicated film critics and Oz historians. Ryan has worked as a television producer of major pop culture and entertainment programming for networks such as Bravo, Showtime, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, TLC, and even The Jerry Springer Show. In addition to his work as a film critic, Ryan emcees numerous events nationwide.

Sierra Scott will offer a toast to the future, which reminds guests that in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, we should strive to live each day with the same joy we experience on Christmas. Guests are reminded to be generous in kindness, patience, and love toward all of humankind.

Scott is the current Ms. Woman United States titleholder. Ms. Scott is a popular TV news anchor with 29 years of broadcast experience. She is the former co-host of “The Brett and Sierra Show” and “It’s All Good with Sierra Scott”. She now hosts “Positively Kansas” on KPTS. An award winning journalist, Ms. Scot is an alumnus of Leadership Kansas and serves on the board of eight charity organizations. She was Miss Missouri 1989. Sierra’s documentary on Darfur called “Destination Darfu, the Untold Story of Peace and Hope” premiered at the United Nations and was screed at the Toronto Film Festival.

“It’s such an honor to be able to toast the future with a man who works so hard to ensure others have the best future possible,” said Scott. “Basil works tirelessly to spread happiness and promote others.”

The “adult-only” celebration includes a visit from Santa Claus, an opportunity for “grown-ups” to re-connect with their inner-child. The garage of the Dannebohm residence is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with Santa’s Workshop, where guests receive a “grown up” goody bag and photo with Kris Kringle.

“There’s a passage in Charles Dickens’, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ that reads, ‘For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself,’” said Dannebohm. Having Santa Claus present reminds us of Christmas memories of a bygone era, and that special feeling we felt as children every Christmas season when we would pay a visit to Santa Claus, wishlist in hand.”

In addition to a festive Yuletide celebration, the evening also serves as an opportunity to officially bless the Nativity Scene on display at the residence through the holidays. The Reverend Robert Schremmer, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, will preside over the ceremony.

“I appreciate Basil’s invitation to be a part of the Blessing and the Advent gathering,” said Schremmer. “Basil has the unique gift of bringing people together. Such a gift is so appropriately enjoyed at this season when God brings earth and heaven together in a baby born to poor parents and placed in a barrowed feeding trough.”

Local members of the clergy from various denominations have been invited to the reception and are encouraged to participate in the manger blessing ceremony.

Dannebohm’s guests will be treated to homemade Christmas candies including: peanut butter bon-bons, cherry mash, peanut brittle, divinity, fudge, peanut clusters, and peppermint bark. They’ll also enjoy homemadeChristmas cookies, popcorn balls, and other delicious snacks. Waissal, hot cider, hot cocoa, wine, and beer will also be available.

Live holiday music will add a special cheer to the festive environment.

DC Hannah will be hand rolling cigars for the event. Cigar loving guests are welcome to grab one of DC’s masterfully created cigars and enjoy out by the fire pit – or take one, or more home, they make great holiday gifts.

Decorating the residence for the celebration takes at least two weeks. Dannebohm personally creates every garland, and meticulously decorates each tree that adorns the house.

As a result of the injury, Basil is forced to wear a leg brace and must use walker for mobility. His medical team hopes this will allow the tendon to heal. If not, he will likely undergo surgery.

Dannebohm is adamant that the injury won’t disrupt the event or his advanced preparations.

“The leg brace makes preparing for the celebration a bit of a challenge but I’m certainly not going to permit it to stand in my way,” said Dannebohm. “Of all of the events held at the residence, the Christmas reception is my favorite. There’s something magical about the experience.”

For Dannebohm, hosting events at his residence is more than entertaining a group of especially invited guests – it’s his way of fostering a renewed sense of communication and understanding.

“One can’t help but notice the uptick of hatred and division that seems to be taking a grip on our world. I’m not certain why it exists. I think part of the problem is that the internet has made some people comfortable hiding behind a vague username or fake profile, degrading one another,” said Dannebohm. “Recently that has evolved into a deranged sense of confidence and a delusion that it’s somehow okay to take an agenda of hatred and falsehoods to the streets – sometimes literally. There are those who wonder how and why this increase in hatred occurred, I’m more concerned with doing my small part to ensure it ceases. That’s why I host receptions such as this. At the Dannebohm residence, our differences are set aside and our humanity is celebrated. For me, that’s more than a seasonal message at Christmas, it’s a cherished way of life.”